Wintersong

Sarah McLachlan

An album like this could cement Sarah McLachlan as a middle-of-the-road crooner ready for the Andy Williams Christmas Show, but there’s more beneath the surface of Wintersong than just Christmas chestnuts, over-roasting on an open fire. Longtime McLachlan producer Pierre Marchand blurs the borders with ambient sound effects, distorted guitars, and subtle echoes. He adds a Mark Isham-esque muted trumpet solo emerging out of reverse echoes on “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” as if viewing the song through a distorted mirror. Violins that sound like they’re being blown through a Leslie speaker combine unpredictably with a banjo on “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” And on the seventh song, McLachlan finally kicks the album into another gear, turning “The First NoŽl” into a storming entreaty backed by tribal drums and surging low strings. Her voice is like the serene angel amidst the raging storm. I wish McLachlan had taken more chances like this, instead of the subtle framing she employs around melodies that remain true to form. Surprisingly, the more contemporary songs by John Lennon, Joni Mitchell, and Gordon Lightfoot are the least inventive. Her reading of Mitchell’s incandescently wistful “River” is overly faithful to the original, and Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” sounds like karaoke, right down to the Spector-esque production and children’s choir. But given that Lennon’s prayer for peace still remains unanswered, that fidelity could be intentional. Regardless, this is familiar Christmas fare delivered in an intimate and ethereal fashion that will satisfy those who believe in the nostalgic spirit of the season.

  • Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
  • What Child Is This?
  • River
  • Wintersong
  • I'll Be Home For Christmas
  • O Little Town Of Bethlehem
  • The First Noel/Mary Mary
  • Silent Night
  • Song For A Winter's Night
  • Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
  • In A Bleak Mid Winter
  • Christmas Time Is Here